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Australia refuses to reopen border until mid-2022

The Australian government is refusing to relent on its decision to keep the country's border closed to almost all international travel until the middle of next year...

...a decision that has drawn criticism from business and industry groups, as well as members of the prime minister's own party.

Most flights have been for Australians returning from abroad. About 9,000 are trying to return from India alone, but the first flight back on Saturday was half empty, because so many had tested positive.

This was Prime Minister Scott Morrison's response:

"I've seen the suggestion from others who seem to think we can put people who have tested COVID-positive on planes and bring them into Australia. I mean, that just doesn't make any sense. And we all want to support people as much as we can, but by importing COVID into the country I don't think that's a very sensible or sound thing to do. This sort of testing is required from all places where people are coming from into Australia, whether it's the U.K. or elsewhere. And of course it's important in India, and we have seen those high testing rates, and that's frankly why we took the action we did -- because the risk was very, very high."

Australia has had one of the world's most successful efforts at fighting the disease: about 900 deaths and only 30,000 confirmed infections since the start of the pandemic. It's credited its border closure, swift contact tracing, and the public compliance with social distancing measures.

It also has a travel bubble with New Zealand, which also has very low infection rates.